PART 1 FAVOR WITH GOD AND MAN

PART 1 FAVOR WITH GOD AND MAN

Introduction

What inspired me to write about this topic was a conversation I had with a friend, who was a Spanish teacher at the same high school where I taught mathematics. He, being a devout Catholic, would occasionally ask me about my relationship with God, which differed from his significantly.

I let him know that in my youthful years, I would attend the local Catholic church with my parents having participated in the various aspects of it. Initially, I was baptized (sprinkled) in water as a baby, which according to Catholic doctrine, causes an infant to become a child of God or a son of light. First comes repentance that is provided by the parents of the child. Afterward, at the time of the sprinkling, a prayer would be made by the congregation for the Holy Spirit to show up. This would bring about the forgiveness of sins.   

Water along with the reality of the Holy Spirit would allow an infant to enter into the kingdom of God. This they would say is the baptism that now saves us. The sacrament of water baptism is the sacrament of regeneration. The result of this rite is that the new child of God becomes freed from the power of darkness, liberated from sin, and has been brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God.   

Years later when I reached the age of 7, I began attending catechism, which was the mechanism that was used to teach the basic truths of the faith. This instruction prepared me to receive certain of the 7 sacraments, which are ceremonies that point to what is sacred, significant, and important. I eventually received first communion (the elements of the bread and wine are that which nourishes the disciple with Christ’s body and blood for his transformation into Him). A short time later, between the ages of 8-12, I was confirmed. According to this sacrament, the Holy Spirit was given at this time to those already baptized in order to make them strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.

Going to church on a weekly basis, occasionally participating in the confession of sins to a priest, observing the 6 days of obligation throughout the year as well as the two church fasts of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday became my routine. At some point a neighborhood friend, who was an altar boy in a local Catholic church I attended, asked me if I wanted to become one. I said yes, and proceeded to enroll in special classes at the church for this purpose.   

I told my fellow colleague at the school where we taught that as I grew older, in my teens and early twenties, I stopped going to church altogether. I felt that something or someone was missing. Church became boring. It seemed as if I never met the God whom I was trying to obey and follow.   

In my mid-twenties, not being thrilled with how my life was turning out (e.g. job difficulties, relationship issues, family conflicts, alcohol abuse, etc.), I decided to go on a quest in order to determine if there is truly a God. I reasoned that if God does exist, He would be able to help me in addressing these problem areas of my life.  

Where might I find Him? I would assume in church. There are so many faiths, it would be hard not to figure that He wouldn’t be operating in at least one of them. Which one? I had no idea. So, I decided to attend just about every different church assembly there was that was located in my home city. As I would enter and leave the church setting of each faith, there was nothing in any of their teachings which I heard that stood out. What I mean is, I recognized that there were evidently differences in theology, but for the most part the way to heaven was similar. Simply obey the teachings of the church and hopefully, when you die, you might make it to heaven. 

Eventually, something happened to me which changed my life forever. I heard about this through what I now believe was providential circumstances. A Baptist church Bible study was being conducted near where I was living at this time. I attended the study and after the message was given the pastor asked if anyone wanted to have a personal relationship with God. He said that God’s desire was to come into a person’s life and indwell, thus providing him/her with a new nature, a new life, and a divine purpose for living. This got my full attention. I wondered what I was going to have to do in order for these spiritual possibilities to take place in my life.

He went on to say that in order for God to come into a person’s life, he/she must respond to what is called the gospel. The gospel is otherwise known as good news. The good news being that if an unbeliever repents (acknowledges and expresses a desire to turn from their sins) to God the Father and believes in His Son Jesus Christ, then their life will change at that moment.

I decided that I wanted this new life. So, I repented (God I acknowledge my sins and I no longer want to continue in committing them) and repeated the following words about Jesus out loud after the pastor verbally expressed them. I believe in Jesus who:

  • Pre-existed time as one of the members of the Trinity (one God in three persons), the other two being God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
  • Came to the earth (God come in the flesh) and took upon Him the form of a man, being born of a virgin.
  • Lived a sinless life.
  • Listened to and obeyed the directives of His Father.
  • Went to the cross and paid for the penalty of and forgave (wiped away the debt) the sins of the whole world.
  • Rose from the dead after 3 days, never to die again.
  • Walked the earth for 40 days in His glorified body witnessing of His resurrection.
  • Ascended into heaven.

After which, he mentioned to me that according to Scripture whosoever repents and believes in Christ, will receive another member of the trinity, this being the Holy Spirit, who will come inside their body and reside. I followed his leading, but unfortunately, nothing happened. I thought to myself, shouldn’t I somehow be aware that God had come into my life. Then, after a few moments, the pastor made a comment which surprised me. He said that I was currently involved in an illicit relationship with a married woman and needed to confess this sin to God the Father and not continue on in it anymore. I admit that I was taken aback by this declaration. How did he know about this? I confessed this involvement as sin and stated that I wouldn’t continue on in this relationship. Immediately after I said this, I was filled with divine peace and joy that permeated my whole being. God the Holy Spirit had come into my life.    

When I told my fellow colleague about this God-encounter, his response was that likewise, God had come into his life albeit in a different manner. He said that when he partakes of the elements of communion at church, the bread becomes the literal body of Christ and the wine becomes the literal blood of Christ. And the result of such is that the more frequently he chooses to receive communion, the more he would experience an increase in Christ-likeness (i.e., a lessening of racial and national prejudices or neighborhood resentments, and an increase in neighborliness, compassion, patience, and forbearance towards others1). What he was essentially saying was that the partaking of the elements of communion resulted in him in being nourished by Christ’s literal body and blood. And this is what would change his character into becoming Christ-like toward others.

He asked me, what was my thought about this particular teaching? Well, having been a Catholic, I was aware of this doctrine of the church which was otherwise known as the doctrine of Transubstantiation. This view states that when a member of the Catholic faith partakes of the elements of communion the bread turns into the literal body of Christ and the wine turns into the literal blood of Christ.

My response to him was that I no longer believed that this was the case because there is an alternative purpose for the partaking of communion. According to this perspective, the bread symbolizes Christ’s body and the wine symbolizes His blood. For what purpose? You’ll find out as this study progresses. I then proceeded to ask him this question.

Why does the Catholic Church believe in this literal perspective of the elements of communion?

He said that their belief was based on a view that has been held by most of the early church fathers (these are Christian writers who lived during and following the lifetime of the original apostles of Christ) whose writings reflected the history, doctrines, and traditions of the early church. I wondered if what he had just told me had any merit (any basis in fact)? I told him that I would write a paper on this subject and when I was done, I would bring it to him so that he could read it over and provide comments.  

Some of the questions which this study will attempt to answer are:

Do the elements of the bread and wine become the literal body and blood of Christ at communion?

Did most of the early church fathers believe this to be the case?

Does the partaking of communion on a frequent basis cause the participant to increase in spiritual growth thus exhibiting Christ-like compassion, patience, and forbearance towards others?

And by the way, I am not writing this study to give offense to what the Catholics might consider a cardinal doctrine of their faith. By the way, this doctrinal belief is not just ascribed to them. Are you aware that there are other faiths that also believe in this view? Some of the names of these faiths are:

The Oriental Orthodox Churches: They are comprised of over 60 million followers that are part of the World Council of Churches. Most live in Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, India, and Armenia.

The Eastern Orthodox Churches: Purportedly they have over 220 million members. Most live in the former Soviet Union, parts of Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

The Church of the East: Comprised today of two separate distinct churches totaling about 1 million adherents. Many live in India.

The Anglican Church: Otherwise known as the Church of England. This has over 85 million members worldwide. Their view on the elements of communion is different from the Catholic position of transubstantiation. According to their theology, the literal body and blood of Christ are received at the intake of the bread and wine for spiritual nourishment and growth, but the bread and wine are not changed.  

Most of my studies or books are written to try and provide in-depth analysis and contrast of a Biblical topic from opposing views so that a reader will understand why their church believes what they espouse and why other churches believe differently. Hopefully, this kind of teaching will either reinforce one’s belief system or provide Scriptural exegesis that will unveil Biblical truths that they have been unaware of.   

Lord, help me in this endeavor. Provide me with your insight. Amen.

CHAPTER 1

There Are Two Views Concerning the Eating of Christ’s Flesh and the Drinking of His Blood                                                   

The Literal View

The consumption of the bread and wine literally becomes the eating of Christ’s flesh and the drinking of His blood.                        

Suggested Reading: John 6:1-69; Matthew 26:26-28

When Jesus said to the Jews in John 6:53, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you,” he was speaking prophetically of the Lord’s Supper; when the bread becomes His literal body, and the wine becomes His literal blood. In other words, participants in the Lord’s Supper are eating Christ’s actual flesh and drinking His actual blood.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28)

This view proposes that the sacramental union of ourselves with Jesus is a mystical and spiritual union of our soul with Him, produced by our physical contact with the sacred Body of Jesus. As we grow in love for God through our union with Jesus by frequently participating in Holy Communion fruit will be produced in our life that we will notice over time.

Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:54)

Proponents of this view will say that evidence for this view exists, that being in the belief system of most of the early church fathers. 

The Figurative View

The eating of Christ’s flesh and the drinking of His blood is to be taken figuratively (symbolically). 

Suggested Reading: John 6:1-69; John 7:37-39; Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22-23; Luke 22:19-20                     

These verses support the interpretation that the bread symbolizes Christ’s body, and the wine symbolizes Christ’s blood at communion; intimating that faith in Christ, believing in who He is and what He has accomplished, is synonymous with the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood, the reward for such will be the receiving of the indwelling Spirit and eternal life along with additional spiritual blessings.

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (John 6:51)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. (John 6:63)

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. (John 6:66)

Initially, many of the Jews who followed Him thought He meant that they had to literally eat His flesh and drink His blood, which would be considered not only barbaric but contrary to their dietary laws in regard to the partaking of blood. Because of this proclamation, many of them followed Him no more. 

It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

Just before they departed from Him, Jesus explained that it was the Spirit who quickens (gives life), and not the flesh. The indication being that the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood is analogous to a spiritual awakening or to spiritual regeneration.

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him

come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. (Romans 8:34)

In the book of John, Jesus said that if any person thirst let him/her come to Him and drink. For those who believe in who He is will drink, which is analogous to the receiving of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and subsequently out of their belly will flow rivers of living water, i.e., by means of the Spirit, they are enabled to bear fruit. However, the reality of the indwelling Spirit would not take place until after Christ’s glorification (His ascension to heaven where He would be seated at the Father’s right hand).

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:5)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

According to this perspective, it is the indwelling Holy Spirit, and not the communion elements of bread and wine, that is the basis for a believer evidencing God’s love in their life toward others.  

And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:19-20)

These verses reveal to us that this will be the last time Jesus will be celebrating Passover with His disciples. He told them to take of the bread and of the cup of wine and divide it amongst themselves. The bread, he related to them, is His body and the wine is His blood, both of which was to be partaken of for a particular reason. For what reason?

They were to observe communion in remembrance of Him, who as the Passover Lamb, gave of Himself for the sins of the whole world. In this sense, the bread and wine are to be taken symbolically. Proponents of this view state that it is the Holy Spirit, and not the communion elements, which causes a believer to become born-anew, to grow spiritually, and to evidence divine fruit. Communion is not to be participated in so that Christ could nourish the participant’s soul by means of the bread and wine but rather it is an opportunity to reflect upon the work that He accomplished on the cross by means of His suffering and death.

As we can see, there are clearly two distinct views as to the purpose of the elements of communion. Albeit, this question still remains to be answered.

Do the elements of communion become Christ’s literal body and blood or are they to be taken as representations (symbolic) of His physical body (His sufferings) and blood (His physical death) on the cross?

In the next chapter, we will discuss the mindset of some who might be thinking, if I go to church if I believe in the trinity, and yet have no evidence that the Holy Spirit has come into my life, then at least in the partaking of the bread and wine at communion I am engaging in something tangible which provides for me some assurance that Jesus has come into my life.

Endnotes

1Jeff Vehige. ”The Doctrine of Transubstantiation.”, 2008, 10 April 2009 <http://catholic-teaching.org/ >.

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There Are Two Views Concerning the Eating of Christ’s Flesh and the Drinking of His Blood
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